MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD
John 3:22-36 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized— 24 for John had not yet been thrown into prison.
25 Therefore there arose a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.” 27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
31 “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. 33 He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. 36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
John the Baptist, in today’s text, reveals his true heart as a witness of Christ. John is not concerned with building his own ministry. He is not worried that many people were going directly to Jesus. He says: You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ When John was asked previously by the Pharisees, who he was, he replied: "I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,' as Isaiah the prophet said." (John 1:23) Unfortunately there are many today who do not have the same mindset as John. John was sent ahead of Christ to prepare the way. Those now, who come after Christ, are also to be His witnesses. Jesus called and commissioned those who would come after Him to: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) He said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Many today are concerned with making their own disciples, rather than disciples of Christ. They are focused on building their own ministries. They measure their success by the numbers of people in their meetings or the number of books they have sold, rather than on how many have come to Christ. John’s mission, his purpose, was to make straight the way of the Lord. Jesus says that we should make disciples, teaching them to observe all that He commanded. Today there are many who teach a different gospel than the one Jesus taught. Rather than teaching people to observe all that Jesus commanded, some have neglected the commandments of Jesus. They have reasoned that they are no longer valid, that they are outdated. They encourage people to follow their relaxed version of the gospel. They believe that by eliminating the rules they can have more included. These though do not make straight the way of the Lord. Instead by making things easier, they actually cause people to miss the kingdom. Jesus Himself says: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) He says: “Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19-20) By relaxing the Lord’s commandments, the way to Jesus is not made straight, but rather people are prevented from becoming disciples of Christ for the sake of inclusion into the doctrine of man. The relaxed way does not lead to Jesus.
There are also those today, who rather than teaching all that Jesus commanded, add to the commandments of Jesus. They teach a gospel that is not based in and on the love, mercy and grace of God, but rather is based in and on following the rules of men. These too do not make straight the way of the Lord. The narrow path that they preach and teach actually hinders people from entering the kingdom. Ephesians 2:8-9 rightly says: By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Those who create and promote a gospel that has a higher standard than the gospel of Christ and the cross, are building something other than the kingdom of God. John says: He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease. Anything that makes itself more than Christ, anything that seeks to increase its influence and its following beyond and above Christ, the bridegroom, is no friend of His. The heart of every believer and of every witness of Christ should be as John, that Christ would increase and we would decrease. We cannot build anything that compares to the kingdom of heaven, but if we will allow Christ to increase, and we decrease, then it will be as Jesus says in Luke 17:21: “Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Rather than building our own kingdom, we become the kingdom of God.
The ways of man tend to either focus on grace, relaxing the commandments of God; or on obedience, adding to those commandments. It is true as Jesus says in John 3:16: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” It is by faith, believing, that we are saved. But Jesus also says: “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:16) In today’s text it says: The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Belief in Jesus is and must be accompanied by obedience to Him; to all that He commanded. He must increase. As He increases in us and in the world, there will be nothing left for and of the things of the world.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit; increase in me. May I be one who, like John, makes straight the way of the Lord. May Your kingdom come and Your will be done, May it truly be on earth as it is in heaven. Increase O Lord, in and through my life that there would be nothing remaining but You. Amen.